Symptoms Of Brownout: When Work Loses Its Meaning

After the burn-out and the bore-out: the brown-out. The pathology was theorized by two researchers (André Spicer and Mats Alvesson) in the book “The stupidity Paradox”. It is characterized by incomprehension, decreased motivation, disengagement, disinterest vis-à-vis the work performed. This affects many more people than you might think. A study of 1,000 American executives, published by Corporate Balance Concepts in 2013, showed that 40% of them suffered from brownouts.

Brown-out: what is it?

The term is borrowed from the field of electricity, because it means “drop in voltage, current”. The brown-out can be translated by a decrease in commitment in one’s work, to the point of finding it absurd, of no longer wanting to invest and of no longer being happy.

Symptoms of brown-out

Here are several symptoms that can confirm that you are in a brown-out situation:

  • You are not in good physical shape, you no longer exercise
  • You eat worse
  • You have trouble falling asleep
  • You dread going to work
  • You consult your professional emails mornings and evenings, also during your holidays
  • You don’t feel any interest in your job, it doesn’t make sense to you
  • You work mechanically
  • Your job seems like a chore
  • Your to-do list never seems to get smaller
  • You try to avoid meetings
  • During meetings, you stay away and do as little as possible
  • Your personal relationships deteriorate, you take less interest in them: you are less attentive to your family or friends
  • You no longer make an important decision for yourself
  • You no longer have a sense of humor and may even be irritable

Causes of brown-out

The causes of brown-out are various, in fact, it can be due to:

  • Lack of restful sleep can affect your mood the next day
  • Sleep apnea, affecting 5 to 7% of the French population , causing poor processing of emotional memory and preventing people from perceiving things differently, which leaves them in a state of frustration
  • The use of tablets, smartphones, computers at bedtime, causing poor connection of sleep cycles
  • A bad choice on the part of the employee or the recruiter: the field of activity or the occupation occupied is not that for which the employee is made. The recruiter could not judge him correctly, or was deceived during the interview.
  • Acceptance of a promotion, adding commercial or managerial responsibilities for technical professions: new tasks are assigned, but are far from those usually performed. It can then be experienced as a punishment insofar as the employee wishes to carry out work which remains in his functions, for which he has an interest.
  • Automation of work

Solutions against brown-out

The brown-out is a disruptive element on a daily basis, it is therefore preferable to react as soon as we realize that it concerns us. You can take stock and make more or less radical decisions depending on the importance of the pathology:

  • Know why the work is performed: salary, independence, family needs, hours…?
  • Paying attention to those around you to give it meaning
  • Take care of yourself, have a healthy lifestyle
  • Change position within the same company
  • Accept a promotion
  • Change company: maybe it is not the work itself but the organization of work, the projects, the activity of the company, the atmosphere, the tasks … that bother you
  • Change profession while remaining in the same sector of activity (example: in the web sector: Web designer or web developer), which will surely involve resuming studies or carrying out training
  • Change profession and sector of activity (switch from nurse to pastry chef for example)
  • Become an entrepreneur

Accepting the situation is not the best solution, especially if the state of the brown-out is advanced. However, even having made a decision with a real positive effect, it is not certain that he will never relapse a few years later.